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Did Gettleman Reveal That The Panthers Will Keep Greg Hardy?

I saw writeups on the Gettleman press conference on Cat Scratch Reader (here and here) as well as the Charlotte Observer. It was generally quoted as saying that the Panthers will have salary cap problems for the next 2 years. That plus Gettleman's statement "letting a big dog walk out the door" led people to believe that Hardy is good as gone. But does it? One article stated Gettleman "but spoke about how when a quality player it allowed to walk there's always something behind the scenes people don't know about." How can that apply to Hardy when A) everyone knows about the Panthers' cap issues (and if they didn't before the press conference they most certainly do know thanks to Gettleman!) and B) no one has given any hint about Hardy being a problem or distraction or malcontent in the locker room, off the field, etc.? Also, if there are unknown issues between Hardy and the Panthers, Hardy knows about it, and that public statement could cause Hardy severe harm on the open market and be poison in the water for Hardy's agent (who does represent lots of other players by the way).

Even more interesting: the "His plan is to have the Panthers cap-solvent within two years" statement. As I pointed out earlier here if the Panthers don't sign Hardy, they will be in good - if not great - shape salary cap wise immediately. They will be $12 million under the cap - more than enough to extend players and sign free agents - and can easily free up more by releasing more big salary guys and getting others to restructure. They could actually be on the market for a franchise LT or WR (assuming such guys ever hit the market in the first place) if they do not retain Hardy. Or they could simply sign 3 or 4 solid starters (my preferred approach) but for more than the veteran minimum deals this year. And in 2015 they would be in even better shape: still more guys come off the books and more restructures could be done. So if the Panthers could easily have well into the teens available in cap space the next two years by not bringing back Hardy, why claim that the cap will be messed up for 2 years when the Panthers will actually be quite a bit under the cap?

Which leads me to believe that my earlier post here was correct: keeping Hardy can be done, and after a couple of years when Double Trouble, some over 30 veterans and some badly overpriced veterans are off the books and the salary cap will go up due to the TV money, the Panthers will be in very good shape. Now we can debate as to the best way to compete during those 2 years: keeping Hardy and pretty much left to fill holes through the draft, or letting Hardy go and being able to plug those holes with veterans, thereby shifting the role of the draft to using young players to get better. But based on Gettleman's comments, it really looks like he has already decided that keeping an All-Pro DE who can play DT on passing downs is better than having lower mid-level type guys making $3-4 million a year at RT, CB and WR the next 2 years.

If someone knows how the Panthers can let Hardy walk (or trade him) and still be in cap trouble for the next 2 years, please inform. Otherwise, this is an indication that Hardy isn't going anywhere unless he doesn't want to return to Carolina.

Finally, the projected franchise tag for a DE next year? $12.475 million, an increase of $1.3 million dollars. Still more evidence of my position that signing Hardy to a long term deal in 2014 is cheaper than letting him play next year under the franchise tag. Another thing to think of: the Panthers have until March 3 to decide whether to tag Hardy, and then free agency opens a little more than a week later, on March 8. Tagging Hardy to trade him later would delay their ability to participating in free agency because the Panthers would be "capped out" from the time that they tag him until he either signs a long term deal or is traded. More food for thought. Especially since keeping Hardy is vastly preferable to letting him walk and getting nothing more than a pick at the bottom of the 3rd round in 2015 for him.

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